In the centenary year of the artist’s death, the Fitzwilliam Museum will stage a major exhibition of its wide-ranging holdings of works by Edgar Degas (1834-1917), the most extensive and representative in the UK.
The Museum’s collections will be complemented by an outstanding group of over fifty loans from private and public collections throughout Europe and the United States, several of which will be on public display for the first time. These include a group of paintings and drawings once belonging to the economist John Maynard Keynes, bought directly in 1918 and 1919 from Degas's posthumous studio sales in Paris, against a backdrop of German bombardment during World War I.
The remarkable breadth of works on display will include paintings, sculpture, drawings, pastels, etchings, monotypes, counterproofs and letters – some business-like, some heart-rending – written by Degas to friends and associates. Prominent in the exhibition will be Degas’s work in three dimensions: posthumous bronze casts of dancers, horses and nudes, but also exceptionally rare lifetime sculptures in plaster and wax.
The exhibition will show that Degas’s relentless experimentation with technical procedures was a defining characteristic of his art. Abhorring complacency, Degas habitually revisited and reworked compositions and even individual poses, as if to mine the infinite possibilities of a given subject. ‘It is essential to do the same subject over again, ten times, one hundred times,’ Degas believed, ‘nothing should be left to chance’. Was he driven by ‘a passion for perfection’, as one acquaintance claimed? Or can his resistance to closure be considered to be a marker of his modernity?
Read the full press release here.
Image: Edgar Degas (1834-1917), At the Café, c.1875 – 7 (detail) © The Fitzwilliam Museum